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    Nat Fein's masterpiece in extraordinary format, struck from original negative

    The Largest Known Vintage Print of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photograph "The Babe Bows Out." He called himself "just a human-interest photographer," snapping thousands of photos of life in the Big Apple during three decades as an employee of The New York Herald Tribune--marching union workers, sleeping circus elephants, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia leading the Sanitation Department orchestra. But Nat Fein's prolific career would ultimately come to be defined by a single image, a haunting study of fame and mortality entitled "The Babe Bows Out." Today this shot of Ruth's final appearance in Yankee pinstripes ranks among the most famous sports photos in history.

    Leaning upon a bat transformed from the tool of his immortality into a cane to support his failing body, the Babe humbly accepts the honor of his jersey retirement this day, June 13, 1948. The vastness of Yankee Stadium extends toward the horizon, the grandstands packed with fans anxious for one final look at their dying hero. Near the right side of the image, two photographers prepare their cameras for another shot, but only Fein claimed this unique rear vantage point, explaining that he had considered the number "3" to be the story of the day.

    While this image has been reprinted countless times in the six and a half decades since its birth, first generation prints remain the most elusive of prey for the advanced baseball photography collector. This particular example, however, quite literally stands head and shoulders above the rest of its vintage compatriots, the 14x18" dimensions quadrupling the 7x9" area of typical period examples. Though the precise history of this particular print has been lost to the passage of time, one must surmise the creation was due to some sort of public display or perhaps a gift to a VIP, as there would be no cause for such augumented dimensions in a publication format. The artist's personal inscription, "Photo by Nat Fein," at lower right would likewise support this hypothesis. PSA/DNA photo expert Henry Yee assigns "Type II" status to the image, suspecting a printing date of 1953-60 based upon a study of the back stamping and paper stock.

    Minor loss to the emulsion at the very edges of the print suggest an earlier framing, and would be effectively eliminated with the photo's return to that method of display. Remarkably, this edge wear represents the entirety of condition concerns, as the balance of the image area exhibits no distractions worthy of note. Reverse of photo is stamped both "Photo by Fein" and "Herald Tribune--Fein," with a third restricting commercial use.

    The photograph derives from the personal collection of Fein and includes a signed letter of provenance from David Nieves, curator and administrator of the Nat Fein estate. Letter of provenance from Nat Fein Estate. LOA from PSA/DNA, Type II.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2014
    22nd-23rd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 13
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,811

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